Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton

Picture Credit: Photograph by Hugo Burnand

The Royal Wedding Group in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace on 29th April 2011 with the Bride and Groom, TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton) in the centre.

Front row (left to right): Miss Grace van Cutsem, Miss Eliza Lopes, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), HM The Queen (Queen Elizabeth), The Hon. Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Lady Louise Windsor, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton.

Back Row (left to right): Master Tom Pettifer, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla Parker-Bowles), HRH The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), HRH Prince Henry of Wales, Mr. Michael Middleton, Mrs. Michael Middleton, Mr. James Middleton, Miss Philippa (Pippa) Middleton.

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton was on Friday, April 29th, 2011. I didn't actually watch it live because I had to try to get my rest because I had to be awake for my census training later that morning (at 9:00 a.m.). I believe the actual time of the wedding was in the area of 11:00 a.m. British time which would have been around 6:00 a.m. Toronto time.

I did watch some of the rebroadcast on CBC News Channel and CNN. It seemed like quite a lovely affair. Kate Middleton was absolutely smashing. Her wedding gown looked amazing. Prince William was equally dashing in his red, military uniform. They were a picture perfect couple.

Throngs of people from all around the world lined the streets between Westminster Abbey (the church) and Buckingham Palace. Some for as many as two or more days. An estimated 2-billion people watched the ceremony live on television.

The kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace was something people talked about as well. Traditionally the royal couple kisses once to please the crowd and photographers. But, as a man truly in love, Prince William coaxed a second kiss from Kate to the delight of everyone. How sweet is that?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dinner with OOTC Friends

Not my photo

I had dinner with a few friends that volunteer with me at Knox Presbyterian Church at their Out of the Cold program on Saturday. It took us a while to organize. As you know, with any large group it's quite difficult to co-ordinate everyone's schedules.

We met up at around 5:30 p.m. at Cho Won, a Korean restaurant at Yonge and Drewry (a few blocks north of Finch). I picked Sam, Marcel and Choho up at the TTC passenger pick up at Finch Station. Yonni took Joseph and Pattra and her friend Emily and one other girl. Daphne came on her own a bit late. Since we had 10 people we split into two tables. I sat with Sam, Choho and Daphne.

Since I can't handle spicy food I ordered something for myself. I had Bibimbap without adding any hot sauce. Bibimbap is a mixture of vegetables and beef, topped with a sunny side up egg. You have it with rice. Sam and Choho each had spicy dishes.

After dinner a few of the guys had to split. The rest of us went downtown to Aroma Espresso Bar at Bloor and Bathurst for a hot beverage. It was Yonni's suggestion. Sometimes she goes there with her friends after church on Sunday to grab a bite.

It's a pretty nice place inside. Quite a few people go there to hang out with friends or with a date. It was fairly busy when we were there.

We pushed a couple of tables together for the seven of us that were left. Everyone had something different to drink. I had a yummy hot chocolate while others had coffee and tea and everything else in between. We sat and sipped our beverages and enjoyed one another's company for the next little while.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Ark of the Covenant?

I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, starring Harrison Ford. In it they're searching for and find the Ark of the Covenant which does bad things to people. At the end they put it in a wooden crate and hide it in a huge warehouse full of countless other items stored in wooden crates so no one else will be able to find it. Well, that's how I felt last Monday as I was helping a friend, Michael, search for a display rack that he ordered for the company he works for.

I met Michael through my friend, Rob. They both work a small flooring company called Nadurra Wood Corporation. Last Wednesday and Thursday I helped them set up their display for the Green Living show at the Direct Energy Centre down on the C.N.E. (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds. It was quite a bit of work. They had someone install 200 sq. ft. of flooring. We set up these large, display walls which we had to paint after filling in the holes. And we set up the display racks and lighting too.

After the show was over Michael and the other guys at the company put everything back into the rented cube van. At 8:00 a.m. on Monday he came by my condo and picked me up and we drove to the warehouse they rent space out of to put everything back.

The warehouse (York Warehousing & Distribution Worldwide) is huge. I'd say it's about 1 football field wide, by 2 football fields long. Items can be stored up to three stories high (on four levels of shelving, if I remember correctly). Many other companies share the space. There's even a hidden area that's not accessible to anyone else that the government uses (I'm not sure which level, maybe Provincial). The fellow that runs the warehouse said they use it to store supplies in case of emergencies. The reason we got to see that area is because we were searching for a lost item we couldn't find.

After unloading all the items from the show Michael wanted to take a look at this new display stand he had ordered for the company three or four months prior. He thought he knew where it was stored. Most of the goods at the warehouse are stored in a relatively orderly fashion on the shelves which have numbers marking each spot. But, at the back of the warehouse things are stored quick haphazardly. There are things in huge piles on the floor. It's almost like going through a maze walking through them.

On top of some boxes (over 10 feet up) there was a box Michael had marked "Nadurra". He asked a fellow in the warehouse working one of the forklifts if he could take it down. He thought it was his display rack. Well, after the guy took it down Michael discovered that it wasn't his rack, but one belonging to T.D. Bank. So he had to put it back up and scratch the name off the side. Thus began "The Search".

I don't know how long we looked. Up and down aisles and aisles of identical cardboard boxes stacked ceiling high. Craning our necks as we tried to pick one particular item out of thousands upon thousands. That's how we were able to see the "secret" storage area. Brian, the warehouse supervisor let us have a look inside to see if our box was misplaced in there.

Another fellow who was in charge of storage in the warehouse helped us next. We probably went up and down a few aisles with him too (I can't remember). Finally we found it amongst all the other items stored in a mishmash at the back of the warehouse. It was a place Michael and I had gone by before. We just didn't notice it amongst everything else.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Car Shopping

I went to lunch with one of my friends on Saturday. We had sushi buffet at Yang's up on Highway 7, east of Warden. As usual it was good.

After lunch we had a bit of time to kill so we thought we'd go look at some new cars at the dealerships up there. I'm not looking to buy anytime soon, but my friend is considering getting a vehicle in the not too distant future.

I have to say it was kind of fun looking at new cars. They're all so nice and shiny. Our first stop was a Honda dealership. We took a look at the Insight and Fit. The Insight is a hybrid vehicle that's quite good on gas. The Fit is a small, inexpensive, practical car. It also has decent fuel economy, just not as good as the Insight.

While I was there the 2011 CR-Z caught my eye (pictured above). It's an updated version of the old CR-X. My cousin David had one of those many, many years ago when he was still living in Long Island, N.Y.

The new CR-Z is a sporty looking, 2-door hatchback. As well as the Insight, it's a hybrid too. It gets 5.6L/100 kms City and 5.0L/100 kms Highway (CVT model). That's really good. It uses about half as much fuel as a gas engine SUV.

Starting at $24,290 for the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) model it's a bit more expensive than a regular gasoline engine vehicle. But, in the long run you're going to recoup the savings in fuel costs (which as we speak is a ridiculous $1.35/L) and you'll be doing your part to save the environment. A double bonus.

As for my friend, she needed something a bit larger. And she really was hoping to get something with 4-Wheel-Drive. So we shopped around a bit more.

Next we headed over to a Ford dealership. There we saw a Ford Focus and Ford Escape. We looked at the hatchback model of the Focus and considered the 4WD hybrid model of the Escape. Both get reasonable gas mileage. But, the hybrid costs twice as much. So I believe that vehicle is out of the question.

We also hit a Nissan dealership, where we didn't see anything that we were interested in, and a Mazda dealership. I suggested the Mazda 3 or 5, but my friend didn't seem too impressed with either of them. She kind of took a liking to the CX-7 SUV. The AWD (All Wheel Drive) version of that vehicle sucks gas like there's no tomorrow though.

As for myself, I liked the styling of the Mazda 3 Sport. It's a bit more practical than the CR-Z in that it's a 4-door hatch instead of 2. And it costs slightly less starting at $18,695 (for the automatic version). But, it does use quite a bit more gas (8.7L/100 kms City; 6.0L/100 kms Highway for the GX model with automatic transmission). So that's not good.

Anyway, it's something for me to think about in a few years when I'm more serious about buying another vehicle.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mr. Louie goes to Washington (Part IV)

Finally... on my last day in Washington, D.C. I get a whole day without a drop of rain. Hallelujah. On this day I went out with Won and Hannah. Mimi stayed at her folks place with Bryce.

On such a nice day we visited Arlington National Cemetery first. It might seem like an odd place to go on such a bright, sunny day, but I think it's a place of historical significance that deserves to be seen.

The two main points of interest there are JFK's gravesite and the Tomb of the Unknown (American) Soldier. Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is buried beside her husband, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Also buried there are Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy and Senator Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy.

We also visited the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial which is about 10-15 minutes walk north of the cemetery. Created by sculptor Felix W. de Weldon, it's modeled after the famous photo taken by Joe Rosenthal of five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raising an American flag at Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945.

By then we were all pretty hungry. When we noticed a fast food Mexican place called Chipotle we stopped for burritos. We ate fairly quickly then hopped on the subway and headed for the zoo.

Like the other Smithsonian institutions (Art museum, Natural History museum, Air and Space museum, etc.) the Zoo was free too.

For me the main attraction of this particular zoo was the Giant Pandas. They had come to the Toronto Zoo once before, but I don't remember getting to see them. The exhibit would have been quite crowded and I'm guessing people were only allowed to view the pandas for a certain length of time. If they were hiding away in a corner asleep or something then, too bad. You were out of luck.

Well, this time I thought I was out of luck again. Won, Hannah and I checked the whole Giant Panda enclosure (which was quite large) and didn't see a thing. Luckily I check one of the indoor viewing areas and saw one of the two Giant Pandas enjoying an afternoon snack of bamboo. That was quite thrilling. I took quite a few shots. Unfortunately they all look the same. He's just sitting there chewing on bamboo shoots.

The lions and tigers and cheetahs were neat too. But, my other favorite shots would have been the ones I took of the jellyfish there. The were kind of small. I don't know what kind they were, but they were really cool looking. Check my page if you want to see them.

Dinner was at a tea place in Georgetown. Then we headed over to Mimi's parents' place to pick her and Bryce up and take them home.


The next morning Won dropped me off at the parking lot. After four days in Washington I was going home. Even though the weather was kind of rotten for most of my trip I still was happy I visited. There's a lot to see here. I'd come again to catch up on the stuff I missed for sure.

Coincidentally enough I bumped into a girl, Stephanie Wong (Bill Wong's youngest daughter), I know from my church who was taking the same bus back as me. She was visiting her cousin who was on work assignment from Montreal. She shared his hotel room in Georgetown the swanky area of the city. Lucky her.

We had a good chat on the way back. It turns out she like traveling too. One of her favorite places is Japan (where she went for a month with some of her friends after they graduated from school). We managed to talk for most of the 11 hour ride back home. That was more interesting than just sitting on my own by myself for sure.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mr. Louie goes to Washington (Part III)

The next day I had to myself. Since it was Hannah's birthday the day before everyone went to Mimi's parents' place for her birthday party (Saturday). Won dropped me off at the Suitland Metro stop and I took the subway into town.

My first stop was the White House. I transferred from the Green to Blue/Orange line and got off at the Federal Triangle stop. I ended up in the Ronald Reagan building. From there it was a relatively short walk to the White House Visitor's Centre and on to the White House.

I was a bit disappointed at the view I got across the south lawn of the White House. It seemed to be rather obscure behind some bushes and trees. I guess the President needs his privacy. I think I managed to get some okay shots anyway. I was probably there for 5-10 minutes snapping away before I decided to head around to the north side to take a look from there. It was then the rain returned. This time falling fairly heavily.

The north side wasn't much to look at. I guess that's why no one ever takes pictures of it. I did anyway. I figure someone might want to see it. If you do you can click here to link to my pictures. You'll find it buried amongst the other D.C. shots.

My next destination was the National Mall (between the U.S. Capitol Building and Washington Monument). That's where many of the Smithsonian Museums are located. I wanted to see the National Air and Space Museum. I was going to meet Won and Mimi later in front of the National Museum of Natural History to go to dinner. If I had time I'd check it out as well.

On my way there I passed the United States Department of the Treasury so I snapped a photo of it. It's pretty close to the north side of the White House. The rain was still coming down, so I ducked into the nearby Willard Hotel to dry my camera off and use the facilities. It's quite a fancy place. I walked down a hallway where they were serving afternoon tea to guests. It looked very appealing.

After a short break I noticed the rain let up, so I headed back out towards the Air and Space Museum. Again I was sidetracked when I passed the Old Post Office at Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW. I paused to take a picture of it and the statue of Benjamin Franklin standing outside. A park ranger came up to me and started chatting.

He gave me a lot of information about Ben Franklin that I didn't know. Among other things, he was the first postmaster general of the United States, he invented the bulk mailing system, he retired at age 42, he was 6-feet-tall and he was a really good swimmer. By the time I reached the museum it was nearly 2:30 p.m. I only had 2-1/2 hours before I was supposed to meet Won and Mimi.

The Air and Space Museum was really neat. For kids I think this would be the best museum for them. They'd get to see historical planes, spaceships, satellites and other flying machines. Much more interesting than going to see paintings and things like that (at least for them). I found it quite fascinating as well. The Wright Brothers 1903 Wright Flyer was there. It was the first successfully flown airplane. Charles A. Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" was there. It was the first plane to successfully complete a solo nonstop transatlantic flight. The Bell X-1, the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound was there. And they had the Apollo Lunar Module and other space exploration vehicles. I spent so much time there I had no time at all to check out the Museum of Natural History. That will have to wait until another trip.

The National Mall was quite busy. I walked 5-10 minutes from the Air and Space Museum to the Natural History Museum arriving just on time to meet Won and Mimi. They drove in from Mimi's parents' place in Maryland and were a few minutes late. No big deal. We drove to Georgetown to go to Sushi Ko, a restaurant that one of Mimi's uncles recommended (if I'm not mistaken). I have to say I didn't think it was that great. Won and Mimi really seemed to like it though.

Afterwards we head over to another area of town, Adams Morgan. We browsed a few different stores before settling on a bar, Columbia Station, that had a live band playing to relax with a drink and listen to music. It was there I had my first Sam Adams. I had seen their commercials on TV on occasion, but didn't know if they sold it up here in Canada. I guess since I'm not a regular drinker my taste isn't that discerning in that regard. I couldn't tell if it was any different from any other beer I had drank before. Won tried it and thought it was a good beer though.

We also order some dessert to eat while listening to the band. I ordered some cheesecake while Won and Mimi split something else. I can't remember what it was. Maybe it was apple pie or something. Anyway, we wrapped up the evening a bit before 10:00. We had to get Mimi back to her parents' place to take care of the kids.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mr. Louie goes to Washington (Part II)

The next day we rounded up the kids and went to see the Cherry Blossoms. This is one of the reasons I came to Washington, D.C. at this time of the year. They line the 3 km path around the Tidal Basin just south of the Washington Monument.

The weather was better than the day before. It was still quite chilly out, but at least there was a bit of blue sky behind the predominant clouds.

Around the Tidal Basin (as well as the cherry trees) are the Jefferson Memorial and Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial. Currently under construction is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial as well. It's supposed to be ready in August, 2011.

After going by the FDR Memorial we headed away from the Tidal Basin and went over to see the Lincoln Memorial and nearby Korean War Veterans Memorial. Both were pretty cool. What wasn't very cool was the fact that they were renovating the Reflecting Pool opposite the Lincoln Memorial. It was completely drained leaving a long, muddy, brown field behind protective fencing. Not very picturesque at all.

We went to lunch at a Malaysian restaurant next. Again, I don't know what part of town it was in. It was pretty good though. We shared a few dishes that we all picked. I ordered a fried rice dish with fish and chicken. Mimi and Won ordered a tofu and something dish and noodles and something else (I can't remember now). After we ate Won took Mimi and the kids somewhere for something. I can't remember where they went either. Won and I planned to meet later at Union Station to grab dinner. So I had the afternoon to myself.

I went back to The Mall to finish up the rest of the monuments I didn't get to see. I went by the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. Next was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was right next to the Lincoln and Korean War Veterans Memorials. I didn't realize how close it was. We should have went there before lunch and then I would have myself quite a bit of time going back.

I revisited the Tidal Basin next. I wanted to get more pictures of the Cherry Blossoms. I think I managed to get quite a few good shots there. Before I knew it I was running low on time. I had planned to meet Won at 7:00 p.m. at Union Station and it was already past 6:30. Union Station is nearly 4 kms away (a bit north of the Capitol building) so I had to boogie.

Needless to say I didn't make it on time. But, when I arrived there, I didn't see Won. He mentioned he wanted to meet by the Metro (the subway). I noticed two Metro "M" signs on street level, so I stood by the one nearest the street so he could see me when he returned by car.

Well that was the big problem. Because even though he drove Mimi and the kids back by car, he returned on the subway and was waiting on the level below. We didn't find each other until at least quarter past 8:00 when I went down there to look for a pay phone.

We decided to go for sushi in the Dupont Circle area of town. There was a restaurant, Sushi Taro, Won wanted to go to. It's a very popular place that's garnered great reviews. Unfortunately for us there was a one hour wait to get in when we arrived. So we wandered around until we found another place. This one was called Bistro Bistro. It was supposed to be a French place, but they had quite a few pasta dishes which is what I had.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mr. Louie goes to Washington (Part I)

I went to Washington, D.C. last Wednesday. It was my first time down there. added it to their route from Toronto. I was happy about that. I got a return ticket for $20.50. Not too shabby I have to say.

The bus ride down was quite long. Of course we had to stop at the border in Buffalo, New York and go through customs. That involved everyone getting off the bus and taking all their belongings inside and talking with the officials there. As well, we stopped at three places (Buffalo Bus Depot, Harrisburg, P.A. and Baltimore, Maryland) to drop off people and pick them up before finally arriving in D.C.

My friend Won picked me up from the parking lot in Washington where the bus stopped. We walked around downtown then went for a bite to eat at a Thai restaurant in Chinatown. After that we drove to his home out in Maryland. It was a lot further out than I expected. The ride was probably between 45 minutes to an hour. To get to work in the city he drives to the subway parking lot which takes about 1/2 hour and take the train another 20 minutes to his final destination.

In my first day in D.C. I was joined by Won and his family. His wife Mimi and their two kids Hannah, 3, and Bryce who is just an infant. We drove to the Suitland Metro parking and took the subway into town.

It was overcast and drizzly unfortunately. I knew the weather would be like that from checking the forecast ahead of time in Toronto, so I wasn't totally surprised.

We started our day at the U.S. Capitol building. It's equivalent to the Parliament building in Ottawa, Ontario. The legislators and senators who run the country work out of here. To go inside you need to arrange tickets for a tour which we were unable to get. So we just took a look around the outside. It's quite a unique structure. It's round white dome sets it apart from any other building around.

Next we toured the U.S. Supreme Court building nearby. It's the highest court in the United States. We were able to take a self-guided tour inside.

Following that we had lunch at a salad bar called Sweetgreen. I had a Bondi Beach salad which consisted of mesclun and baby arugula with roasted chicken, avocado, corn, hearts of palm, wasabi peas; topped with a miso sesame ginger vinaigrette. It was really tasty.

After lunch we went back to the Supreme Court building area. Across the street was the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. The LOC actually consists of three buildings; the aforementioned Thomas Jefferson Building, the James Madison Memorial Building and the John Adams Building. We joined a guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building. It was a pretty interesting looking building. Anyone can get a library card there no matter where you come from.

Lastly we went to the National Gallery of Art. It's one of the many Smithsonian museums along The National Mall (between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building) that are free to the general public. We only had one hour there before it closed so, needless to say, it wasn't a very leisurely look around.

Dinner was at an Ethiopian Restaurant. I forget which neighbourhood in D.C. it was in. It was my first time having that kind of food. I thought it was alright. They don't use forks or knives. Instead you pick your food up with pieces of soft bread they provide for you. You just tear off bite size pieces to grab your food with. That was interesting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Renovated Northern District Library

Not my photo

My local library branch, Northern District Library, finally reopened after over a year undergoing renovations. I dropped by to pick up books I had on hold there.

I have to say it looks great. It's much more open. I believe the bookshelves are lower allowing more natural light to pass through from the many windows. There are also neat seating arrangements like a lounge area and bench seating with tables. I'm really impressed.

The only thing I didn't like was the identification labels on the front of the shelves. They only read "Fiction" or "Non-Fiction" and the identification number of the books. In the past they said what kind of books were on the particular shelves like Travel or Photography or whatever.

Here's a descriptions of the changes from the Toronto Public Library website:

Improvements include:

• More accessible community space: Convenient furniture and shelving layout; additional fully accessible washrooms on the main floor; new interior entrance doors with barrier-free access to all areas of the library. More study and program space.

• Improved customer service: Self-service technologies including express check-out and check-in; new customer service and information desks. Digital signage to promote library programs and services.

• Increased access to technology for research, learning, working and recreation: New computer learning centre with smart board technology. Additional seating with outlets for laptop use throughout the branch.

• Welcoming for everyone: An urban living room with comfortable seating, lounge area and café style seating; small quiet study rooms; older adult and local history area; a vibrant Teen Zone with banquette and group study seating; children’s area with a dedicated Dial A Story phone; new main floor program room and an area for collection display and promotion.

• Relevant: Over 6,650 new books, CDs, magazines and DVDs.

An additional significant service enhancement to Northern District Branch will be a youth space featuring computer and media arts equipment. Scheduled to open in February 2011, this youth-friendly, youth-led studio space is a partnership between Toronto Public Library and the Delisle Youth Services.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dinner at Spring Rolls

This is a photo of my mango crème brûlée that was part of our Spring Rolls "Meal Deal". For $20 you could have your choice of appetizer, main course and dessert. Depending on your picks it wasn't too bad a deal.

Still, I was kind of torn. I had a hankering for red curry with either chicken or beef on rice. But, it wasn't one of the main courses offered. After humming and hawing over it for awhile I finally decided to go for the deal.

For our appetizers we picked some Maki rolls. One with salmon, the other with beef. It was a bit odd because both meats were cooked. I've never had Maki with cooked meat. It wasn't very traditional at all. I can't say I was a big fan of the taste.

For my main course I picked a dish with shrimp. It was supposed to come with Pad Thai noodles, but when it came it had rice. Being the easygoing person that I am, I ate it without complaint. If it's not something I totally dislike I see no reason in sending it back and having them prepare something else. It just seems like such a waste (which is something I really have a problem with).

Our main courses were fine. My friend had something similar to me. It too had shrimp on rice. But, hers had jumbo shrimp (compared to my "shrimpy" shrimp) and snow peas as well.

We both ordered the same dessert, mango crème brûlée. The only other choice of desserts was a mango pudding if I remember correctly. In fact the crème brûlée seemed like a mango pudding, only with the crusted sugar top.

Overall I still think the deal was fine. I'd consider getting it again if I go back (and they still have it). That probably won't be for a long time though. Because I have a yen for sushi now. And I'll have to satisfy that first.